Last week, Ruth-Anne West commented on one of my posts:
The desire to share a good word and make a difference from our place of insignificance…now that’s a worthy challenge. Oh let’s try!
This week I have been wondering where exactly tolerance becomes complicity for me personally.
I have been wondering where solidarity slides into appropriation, as well.
Reading the New Yorker’s essays this morning, Tony Morrison’s words ripped me apart, and left me feeling hopeless for hours.
There are no simple answers. But I think – at this moment – as Ruth-Anne suggests – there is a lot to be done from a place of insignificance.
A smile. Eye contact.
And when necessary, a carefully worded letter.
Early last week I was listening to a podcast – one of my favourite podcasts – while walking the dog. And I literally stopped in my tracks. One of the hosts repeatedly ridiculed a woman for her spelling and grammar skills.
Ridiculing a woman who has been dead for over two hundred years.
It became one of those jokes that becomes a joke because you just keep returning to it.
Pointlessly, yet with such great effect.
This weekend, I realised that, in light of the social climate in the United States, and as a woman who will always be the “trailer park girl” (despite a solid education and liberal political view), I thought it was necessary to speak up:
To remind these historians of the fact that education is a privilege – and was even more so 200 years ago when less than 50% of women in New England were could read. That spelling is not an indication of intelligence, and that the assumption that it is looks like class discrimination, and feels like contempt.
(Not to mention the fact that if the woman did have limited intelligence, ridiculing her for falling for – and daring to write gushing love-letters to – a charismatic and opportunistic politician, is just… well… mean.)
This particular episode was a “live” episode, with an audience of what I kind of think of as my own tribe. But their collective, giggling ridicule made me realise that this is not my tribe and never will be. A slip of the tongue (“ketch” for “catch”), a misspelling or malapropism will give me away every time. But in this case – it would have been the visible flinch from a jibe that reached my core.
I didn’t write a public letter. And I don’t want them to read my email on air. I just want them to not do such a thing again.
It’s not a big thing. But it is a tendril of the root of the problem. And one I can attempt to grab hold of and stop.
Of course, it’s possible they’re laughing over a typo as they hit delete.
But that will be on them.
I will keep trying in very small, quiet ways – from this place of insignificance.
Posted in: "A diary means yes indeed" - Gertrude Stein